Malham’s Triple Crown: Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar & Malham Cove

Janet's Foss

I recently cycled the Way of the Roses cycle route from Morecambe to Bridlington. It was a spectacular ride, one of the best. Click here if you’d like to find out more.

 

However, this article is not about that ride but about my brief overnight stop off in the delightful village of Malham. Having heard fantastic things about both the area and its YHA hostel, I deliberately cycled a shorter distance on day 1 of my bike ride so that I could spend a bit of time exploring Malham – and boy did it live up to the hype.

I rolled up to the front door of YHA Malham at about 2pm on a soggy afternoon having cycled about 45 miles from Morecambe. Check in wasn’t until 5pm so I threw on some non-cycling clothes and locked my bike and panniers up, although it didn’t feel particularly necessary.

Happy to be off the saddle, I set off in search of the three jewels on Malham’s crown; the reason for me choosing to stop here for the night.

Malham is a small village with two pubs and a little shop where, when I asked the shopkeeper what time it closed, he looked at me as if I’d asked him for an Apple Genius appointment and said, “Whenever people stop coming in I suppose.” Which considering the village currently has a population of 238 is probably quite a difficult thing to gauge. Both the shop and this exchange were charming either way.

Anyway, back to those jewels. I crossed a bridge taking me away from the hustle and bustle of Malham and a sign informed me that I was very briefly walking on the Pennine Way. I’ve since done some research and decided I must come back and do the other 266.5 miles that I missed, it looks incredible.

The Pennine Way
The Pennine Way

This was to be an easy, but action packed 5-mile stroll with plenty of great views to take in along the way. I had a spring in my step despite the 45 miles already cycled as I approached Malham’s first jewel; Janet’s Foss.

The word ‘Foss’ was familiar to me as the Icelandic word for waterfall and like many sites of interest in Iceland, this pretty little woodland waterfall is accompanied by its very own folktale. The ‘Janet’ (or Jennet) in question is said to be a fairy queen who lives in a cave behind the falls.

Sitting by the falls on a sunny afternoon is quite magical and it’s not hard to imagine how these tales were cooked up.

Janet's Foss
Janet’s Foss

Onwards to jewel number two; Gordale Scar. Sounding like something out of Lord of the Rings and not looking too dissimilar, Gordale Scar is a sight to behold even from a distance, but it becomes more dramatic and wildly impressive the closer you get.

A harsh gorge created by glacial movement 1.5 million years ago, Gordale Scar is said to be one of the most painted natural landmarks in the UK. There is currently a painting of it from 1814 by James Ward in the Tate Britain. This was further proven as I approached the gorge and saw a lady sitting in front of an easel putting her somewhat abstract interpretation of the scar down on canvas.

Gordale Scar
Gordale Scar

The third, final and possibly most impressive of these crown jewels is Malham Cove. An easy walk and a short upward climb will take you to the upper level of what was once upon a time a waterfall bigger than Niagara Falls. No longer flowing, at over 80 metres tall and 300 metres wide, Malham Cove is a favourite destination for rock climbing and bouldering.
After standing on the naturally formed pavement above Malham Cove, a further trail leads you down to the foot of the ‘falls’ which is where you can really get an idea of the magnificent scale of what you’ve just been standing on.

Malham Cove
Malham Cove

A night in YHA Malham will rarely cost more than £15. I went in the off-season and paid £7 as a member.

It is a modern, well-equipped hostel and they offer dinner and breakfast for a nominal sum. After a delicious plate of spaghetti bolognese I popped over to the Lister Arms for a couple of pints in front of the fireplace. Perfect.

VIDEO: Morocco – Fez, Chefchaouen & Hiking in the Rif Mountains

Goat in Chefchaouen

I recently went to Morocco for a week with my mate Danny during Ramadan.

We visited the blue city, Chefchaouen. From there we hiked to the Akchour Waterfall and battled 32 degree heat to summit Jebel el Kelaa in the Rif Mountain range. Possibly the best day hike of my life.

Goat in ChefchaouenHanging out on the roof in Fez, MoroccoKitten in Chefchaouen

Outdoor brand, Jack Wolfskin have been running a promotion where they offer people the opportunity to pay for new gear with travel videos. I leapt at the chance for a freebie and put my all into making a travel video of our trip.Jack Wolfskin Backpack Morocco

Lo and behold, a month later I have a brand new, awesome backpack, free of charge! But it’s the video of our week of adventure in Morocco that I will treasure the most. Hope you enjoy watching it.

Cycling The Way of the Roses: Day 3 – York to Bridlington

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DAY 3


The final push would be another 45 mile day and the allure of a Fish and Chip dinner on the seafront gave me all the energy I needed to get going (along with another YHA fry up and a couple of pilfered sandwiches).

I read in my guide that 5 miles or so into today’s ride I would hit the only off road section of the entire Way of the Roses; a dirt path skirting some farmer’s fields.

Off-road. Bumpy but beautiful
Off-road. Bumpy but beautiful

The roads had been incredibly smooth up until this point so I wasn’t in the least bit concerned by a few bumpy miles – that was until the rack fell off of the back of my bike mere metres before the dirt road began.

Brilliant. A quick check on my phone informed me that I either had to go 5 miles back to York or continue for about the same to find a bike shop. Determined not to go back to York I used my cable lock to tie the rack onto the bike by looping it around the seat post several times.

This worked remarkably well for a couple of miles but eventually it gave way and I couldn’t seem to get it to hold again. I somehow managed to wedge the rack in place so that it wouldn’t fall back and rub against my wheel, but it wouldn’t take any weight at all so I hung one pannier bag on either side of my handlebars. This ad hoc solution seemed to work ok, other than the fact that the panniers completely covered my brake levers.

After a wobbly, sketchy ride I eventually left the dirt path and arrived into the town of Stamford Bridge. I couldn’t continue like this so I left the Way of the Roses and sought out a car garage.
I wheeled my bike into Stamford Bridge Garage and a kind woman set to work fixing the rack back onto my bike. She even found new nuts and bolts in her toolkit to replace ones that I have lost.

Before and after Stamford Bridge Garage saved the day
Before and after Stamford Bridge Garage saved the day

She refused to take any money from me and wished me well as I wheeled my bike out of the garage, my rack more secure than ever before.

At last I was back in the saddle and I could start covering some miles again.

The rest of the ride was completely different to anything previously as thin roads cut through the middle of huge fields. The sky was endless. Although it was a beautiful day, the wind was ferocious and I had to pedal very hard on flat roads to get anywhere.

Huge skies & nobody for miles around
Huge skies & nobody for miles around

Eventually the sky began to seem smaller and trees appeared again, soon followed by buildings. This was the home stretch and I could smell the approaching sea.

I cruised down to Bridlington sea front on autopilot, took my obligatory photo in front of the Way of the Roses sign and headed off in search of fish and chips – this was the real finish line.

Whether it was the 170 miles in my legs or some deep fried voodoo I do not know, but sitting on a bench occasionally shoeing away a seagull – this was genuinely was the best portion of fish and chips I have ever eaten.

Click here to check out the brilliant Official Way of the Roses Map from Sustrans
Click here to check out the equally superb Official Way of the Roses Guidebook, also from Sustrans

The finish line

Cycling The Way of the Roses: Day 2 – Malham to York

It may be olde, but is it a shoppe?

DAY 2

Having paid only £7 for a bed for the night, I felt no guilt when I pushed the boat out and splurged £5 for a full English at the hostel. I slipped a peanut butter sandwich and a banana in my jersey pocket when nobody was watching, downed my fourth cup of tea and got on my way.

This was to be a long day in the saddle at 80 miles compared to 45 on Day 1. Best hope I don’t have any hold ups…

Barely had I got going on Day 2 when I was stopped in my tracks for the best part of half an hour by a proper countryside traffic jam as a farmer moved a herd of cattle along the road to a different field. With no way to get past and not wanting to lose momentum for the steep hill ahead, I plonked myself down on the nearest hay bale and enjoyed my peanut butter sandwich (thanks YHA!) while watching the pilgrimage.

As I’m sure you can well imagine, the ride was beautiful, aesthetically and in terms of physical enjoyment but I won’t bang on too much about grass and sheep. I might stick a photo or two in once I’ve finished writing this.

See... told you. Lovely.
See… told you. Lovely.

I soon passed through the cute little market town of Pateley Bridge. I didn’t really know anything about Pateley Bridge and was surprised when I arrived to find it absolutely buzzing. By buzzing I mean I saw between 20 and 30 people knocking around. About 10 of them were in a sweet shop, which claimed to be the ‘Oldest Sweet Shop in England’, but they didn’t spell it ‘Shoppe’ so I’m not sure if I believe them.
Oldest sweet shop or not, I bought a fat bag of toffee bon bons (the powdery kind) and had the same conversation I have with every ‘Olde Sweet Shoppe’ proprietor I ever meet about how disappointing it is that they don’t make toasted tea cakes any more (I know right!?) and got on my way.

It may be olde, but is it a shoppe?
It may be olde, but is it a shoppe?

Though I didn’t have time to stop at Fountains Abbey, I did cycle through the adjoining medieval deer park, which is home to 350 deer and a very impressive looking church.
As I rode through the park admiring the church building and the deer lazing and grazing in the sun to my left, I almost had a terrible (but also kind of brilliant) accident when a MASSIVE (it was properly massive) red deer, antlers and all, burst out of the bushes to my right and darted across the road in front of me. I slammed my breaks on and missed him by a whisker. It was amazing!!

This wasn’t the only time a deer has jumped out at me; I think they do it on purpose for a laugh. Read about another deer encounter during a hike on the North Downs Way HERE.

It was a beautifully sunny day and the rest of the ride was fairly easy going, it didn’t feel like 80 miles at all and I arrived at YHA York with half a spring still in my step. I cycled into town and had a stroll around the city. I used my iPhone to find a few Geocaches and then I used it to find some good beer and food.
The venue of choice was a bizarre establishment called ‘The House of Trembling Madness’. Downstairs is a vast specialist beer shop with an immense selection of rare and wonderful beers from all over the world. Upstairs is a wonky little loft pub that also has superb beer offerings. Their small menu is comprised mainly of cheese and cured meat platters from local producers. I went for a hybrid with some pickles and a massive hunk of cheesy bread. The food was decent; the beer was star of the show.

Pumba at the House of Trembling Madness, York.
Pumba at the House of Trembling Madness, York.

As if the menu wasn’t already enough of a put off for vegetarians, the small loft is packed, literally to the rafters, with taxidermy. I ate my meal while having a staring competition with a warthog as a lion leered over my shoulder. It dawned on me that this was the first, and probably last time I would ever have dinner in the company of both Simba and Pumba.

YHA York is big and lacks the charm of Malham, but it is a clean, well-equipped hostel that provides an ideal stop off or base from which to explore York. It also has a bar.

Click here to check out the brilliant Official Way of the Roses Map from Sustrans
Click here to check out the equally superb Official Way of the Roses Guidebook, also from Sustrans

Way of the Roses Day 3: York to Bridlington

Cycling The Way of the Roses: Day 1 – Morecambe to Malham

The start line in Morecambe.

The Way of the Roses – The Perfect 3 Day Cycle Tour?

The Way of the Roses is a ‘Coast to Coast’ national cycling route in Northern England, signposted and way marked so brilliantly by Sustrans that a chimp would find it difficult to get lost. That being said, I did lose my way once but that was my own fault for daydreaming and I was soon back on track thanks to my map and guidebook.

Generously peppered with beautiful scenery, the Way of the Roses stretches 170 miles from Morecambe (Lancashire) on the West coast to Bridlington (Yorkshire) in the East.
The varied terrain provides enough of a challenge that you’ll feel like you’ve truly earned your fish and chips at the finish line, but, other than one big climb out of the town of Settle, is a very doable ride for a casual weekend cyclist.

The start line in Morecambe.
Sent on my way by Eric himself on the start line in Morecambe.

 

I completed the ride over 3 days in early September, when the benefit of longer daylight hours allowed me to enjoy each day and not feel like I was rushing to get miles under my belt before nightfall – in fact, on my first day I arrived at my hostel with enough time for a 5 mile hike around Malham – you can read about that here.

This is an account of the 3 days I spent cycling this incredible route. I only had 3 days to spare and planned the route as best I could, in order to make the most of my time. I can’t recommend this itinerary highly enough.

My only disappointment was that I didn’t have enough time to stop off at National Trust and UNESCO world heritage site, Fountain’s Abbey. Several people have told me I’m an idiot for that but I’m looking at it as a good excuse to go back.

cycling-the-way-of-the-roses

DAY 1

 

An early train runs direct from London Euston to Lancaster every day. I picked it up at its first stop, Watford Junction at about 5.45am. I loaded my bike onto a rack in the cycle carriage, found my seat, put some ear plugs in and swiftly fell back to sleep. It’s free to take bicycles on many UK trains but space is limited so make sure to reserve a spot. The staff will know in advance you are coming and open the bike area for you.

Up before the sun at Watford Junction
Up before the sun at Watford Junction

I woke up 3 hours later in Lancaster where I wheeled my bike to the opposite platform and onto a local train to Morecambe. 20 minutes later I was standing next to a statue of Eric Morecambe getting ready to ceremonially dip my front wheel into the Irish sea. It all went so smoothly I wondered if I was still asleep.

It’s worth pausing in Morecambe to enjoy the scenery; there are some cool sculptures along the sea front and the art deco Midland Hotel, refurbished in 2008, looked dramatic against the grey sky when I was there. But if that’s not your bag then crack on, you’ve got miles to cover!

A grey day on Morecambe Bay
A grey day on Morecambe Bay

The ride begins on a traffic free bike path. I rode alongside people still making their way to work. I smiled through the drizzle and rang my bell at people, feeling rather smug knowing a few hours earlier I was asleep hundreds of miles away and now I was off on adventure before most people had even started work.

The roads were pleasingly quiet and I didn’t have to think much about the route due to the excellent signposting, so I was able to really enjoy my surroundings. Rolling hills dotted with sheep stretched out for miles and I went long stretches of time without seeing a single car.

 

Other than the rain, no real challenges presented themselves from Morecambe to Settle and I pulled into the oddly named ‘Ye Olde Naked Man Cafe’ late morning for some tea, scones and shelter. It’s a busy café but there was plenty of seating. Good tea, great scones, fast service and Eric Morecambe had obligingly brought me sunshine to see me into the afternoon. I hate it when people say “RESULT!” after things but this was genuinely a good result.

Bring me sunshine
Bring me sunshine

From Settle you have the choice to take a bit of a detour, as I did, and ride up a challenging hill on the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway to Malham Tarn. It’s rugged and ruthless, but well worth it. The scenery is spectacular and it felt like the wildest part of the whole ride. I got off my bike for the final push up the hill, you know, so I could really appreciate the scenery and that. I got some terribly judgmental looks from the sheep it was quite embarrassing.

Heading up the hill on the way to Malham
Heading up the hill on the way to Malham

If you are staying at YHA Malham (which you should because it is great) then this detour is perfect because from the top of the hill you can roll down to the front door of the hostel. From the hostel it’s a 2-minute ride to rejoin the Way of the Roses the next day.

I got to Malham mid afternoon and had more than enough time for a 5 mile hike, partly on the Pennine Way, taking in Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss. I loved it so much that I gave it a little spinoff blog post of its own.

The Pennine Way
The Pennine Way

Malham is a nice little village with a couple of pubs and a tiny shop with limited opening hours that feels like the past. I opted for dinner at the hostel (Spag Bol with garlic bread and salad for a fiver, result… god I hate myself) followed by a couple of pints by the fireplace at the Lister Arms.

As a YHA member, my bed for the night cost £7, down from £10 for non members. This is unbelievably good value and I plan to come back for a longer stay to explore the area on foot. It’d be rude not to.

Click here to check out the brilliant Official Way of the Roses Map from Sustrans
Click here to check out the equally superb Official Way of the Roses Guidebook, also from Sustrans

Way of the Roses Day 2: Malham to York

 

A Failed Source to Sea Adventure on the River Arun

Outdoor Adventure Guide Article

NOTE: This article was originally published in the Outdoor Adventure Guide.
Outdoor Adventure Guide Articlesource-to-sea-2-copy

The idea was a simple one. My friend Izzy and I would drive to Horsham, find the source of the River Arun and follow it by foot and inflatable dinghy 25 meandering miles to Littlehampton on the south coast, where it spills out into the English Channel.

One hour into the journey and we had made it less than half a mile through thick, wild forest that felt more like the Amazon than the Sussex countryside.

This was going to be more of a challenge than we had anticipated.

We crawled, we climbed, we slipped and we fell. We crossed bridges and we built bridges. The river was either too small to float on or on the rare occasion that it was big enough, there were fallen trees and obstacles blocking our path.

We had anticipated a short stroll followed by a long paddle. We would effortlessly float in the sunshine all the way to Littlehampton, waving at delighted picnickers and fishermen all the way. After two glorious sun drenched days we would arrive victorious, stepping from our dinghy straight into the pub for a pint and some fish and chips. The locals would beg us to tell them more about the wondrous adventure we had just partaken in.

By 8pm on the first evening we had not even entertained the idea of inflating the boat.

As we entered a cow field, Izzy told me that she had been chased by a herd of cows in New Zealand and as such was now terrified of them. I told her not to be so silly and strolled into the field.

The cows approached and I looked around for Izzy, she was already hiding in a bush. The herd closed in around me and I was forced to retreat to the muddy banks of the river where Izzy was now cowering.

The cows kept pushing forwards.

Maybe they were being curious. Maybe they thought we were going to feed them. Maybe they did, in fact, want to kill us.

source-to-sea-3-copy

Before I had time to ponder for too long I heard Izzy yell an expletive and throw herself off of the river bank into the water about 6 feet below us, pack still on her back. It was deep.

I froze in a stand off with a herd of 30 cows while Izzy floundered in the water below. They edged further forward still. A chorus of angry sounding ‘moos’ began.

“JACK! YOU NEED TO JUMP NOW!!!” Screamed a freezing cold, terrified Izzy.

So I did.

We both flopped out onto the bank on the other side, drenched.

This was our cue to make camp for the night. The boat finally came out of the bag, but only as acting ground sheet.

We slept in bivvy bags on the bank of the river and woke early the next morning.

We stuck to the road for the first part of the day, trying to make up for lost time.

When we finally did head back into the fields, Izzy soon noticed a cow pat on the ground.

I watched the colour drain from her cheeks.

“I think it’s time to get in the river.” She said.

Thankfully, this time, at last, it would be in the boat.

It felt great to finally be floating on the river rather than battling through the forest beside it and not using it as refuge from angry cattle.

This was what it was all about.

It wasn’t plain sailing. Parts of the river were impassable. We had to get out many times and pass the boat to each other ‘Chuckle brother style’ through walls of nettles. “To me… to you.” Sometimes it was easier to let the boat drift beneath us while we climbed through the trees above before lowering ourselves down and dropping back down into it.

We got a puncture. We fixed it.

We made friends with a couple of swans and found hundreds of baby frogs.

Late in the afternoon it became very clear that we were not going to make it to the sea.

We were ok with this – it was an incredible weekend.

We came to another blockage in the river. The biggest we had yet encountered.

“Pub?” said Izzy.

I’d already pulled the valve out of the dinghy.

A while later, after a Sunday roast and a couple of pints we got a lift back to the source of the River Arun, where we had left the car two long days ago.

The drive back took 25 minutes.